The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 81, Los Angeles Lakers 101

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 3, 2013 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The Mavericks’ season, for all playoffs-related purposes, ended on Tuesday night, and now we’re left to consider what this lukewarm, odd journey meant.
  • As a Dirk Nowitzki three-pointer failed to reach its intended destination late in the fourth quarter, I realized it would fall to me to essentially eulogize a tumultuous season of Mavericks’ basketball.
  • I thought about O.J. Mayo in the fall, Shawn Marion in the winter, and Dirk Nowitzki in the spring. I thought about the guarded hope of Brandan Wright’s line-drive hook shot, and I thought about the eager play of Bernard James. I thought about the managerial sense of Mike James, and the ever-hopeful exuberance of a Darren Collison drive. I thought about Vince Carter’s return to respect and the journey he and all of us are on, and I thought about the stoic stare of Elton Brand. I thought about all of this, and I sighed and considered all the different reasons that this sum of hope would now amount to nothing in a competitive sense. But a season is not nothing, no matter the result. It’s an emotional journey for those who (perhaps foolishly) choose to invest in its path. That path will lead longtime Mavericks’ fan somewhere unexpected this year – to a place apart from the playoffs. But disappointment does not erase the uniqueness of the journey, and another season and another path awaits in the not-so-distant future.
  • What I will write about tonight is the summation of a grimly typical occurence  - a harsh regression to realistic shooting performances, and a firm departure from the exalted three-point bubble  of glory that’s gracefully covered all of this team’s faults for the last month or so.
  • “In other words: If the jumpers stop falling, the Mavs could be in trouble.”
  • Zach Lowe wrote that sentence less than a week ago, and it’s prescience quickly came to fruition.
  • The Mavericks’ reliance on mid-range success was perhaps the most tenuous aspect of the team’s recent form, and tonight the team failed in that area entirely.
  • The only Maverick who succeeded regularly on offense was Chris Kaman (7-10 FG, 14 points, six rebounds), who turned in one of his better performances of the season.
  • Dirk has always defied defensive hopes with his dominance of the left-sided mid-range game, but that defiance counted for little against a hard-charging Lakers’ defense.
  • He shot and missed all four of his shots from 10-23 feet in that left region, and misses like these always ring loudly with foreboding for even the greatest of mid-range shooters.
  • And like so many nights this season, any hope for a defensive save collapsed after an especially rough second quarter.
  • Earl Clark (7-14 FG, 17 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks), once widely considered a draft bust and NBA failure, played a far more complete and Maverick-destructive game than anyone once would have guessed possible not long ago.
  • But it did happen, as Clark scored from any region possible and defended Dirk with all the aplomb of a young James Worthy.
  • Even more decimating was the play of one Kobe Bryant (8-18 FG, 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists).
  • In the absence of Steve Nash, Bryant and the other Laker guards found Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard (10-20 FT) in the post all night, to the tune of a combined 38 points on 25 field goals (and 22 rebounds) from the pair.
  • I’d guess this kind of complete performance is what the overbearing contingency of Lakers’ fans always imagined when this team was first constructed – solid post play, tough interior defense, and a confident Kobe controlling tempo from the perimeter.
  • But such a performance couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Mavericks, who simply appeared unable to generate a significant counter to the Lakers’ play.
  • The cornerstones of these Mavericks, mid-range and three-point shooting, dissipated with the rapidity of a changing wind, and an inability to capitalize at the rim (6-12 FT) closed the door definitively on any sort of courageous final comeback.
  • I have no doubt that the Mavericks, not yet mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, will go on fighting with the heart of a battling, worn down champion, as they have all season. This team does not lack for heart – it simply lacks for well-fitting parts.
  • Along with all the pain and struggle of an uneven season, the 2012-2013 Mavericks heaved forward, one three-pointer at a time, until the proverbial well ran dry and there was nothing left to do but keep fighting against a dooming reality. Playoffs may go, but beards are forever.